Tom Hiddleston’s hands have moved a little closer to James Bond’s Walther PKK pistol with the revelation that Night Manager director Susanne Bier is one of the leading contenders to take over from Sam Mendes on the next 007 film.
Sources close to Bond producers Eon tell RadioTimes.com that Bier is among a “handful” of names making up producer Barbara Broccoli’s shortlist to inherit the directing gig from Mendes.
If Bier gets the job it would make her the first woman ever to helm a James Bond movie – and would also vastly increase the chances of the already hotly-tipped Hiddleston getting the role of Bond thanks to the pair’s previous working relationship.
Bier directed Hiddleston in acclaimed espionage drama series The Night Manager, which aired earlier this year on BBC1, and has spoken of her huge admiration for the star.
“There’s a certain incredibly enigmatic quality to his eyes,” she told an interviewer.
“You aren’t sure you can trust him, but you are sure there is a pain there that he doesn’t show. He’s so immaculate and fun and elegant and charming, and there is somewhere inside of him a painfulness, which I think for most women, is irresistible.”
For many Bond watchers, Hiddleston’s role in The Night Manager (below) was a virtual audition for the part.
He was reported to have met with Broccoli last month, prompting bookmakers Coral to suspend all betting on the Bond succession after a flurry of punts on Hiddleston made him a 1-2 odds-on favourite to win the part.
However the actor has since tired to distance himself from the speculation.
“The thing is the position isn’t vacant as far as I am aware. No one has talked to me about it,” he told Graham Norton.
However in March Hiddleston said he would be interested in the role should it become vacant.
“Time magazine ran a poll and there were like, 100 actors on the list, including Angelina Jolie,” he said. “But yes, it’s nice to be included in the 100. I’m a huge fan of the series. We all went to see Spectre when we were shooting Skull Island in Hawaii. I simply love the theme tune, the tropes and the mythology. I love the whole thing. If it ever came knocking, it would be an extraordinary opportunity.”
Mendes, meanwhile, revealed at the Hay Literary Festival at the weekend that he was quitting as director after working on the last two Bond films, 2012’s Skyfall and 2015’s Spectre.
Daniel Craig is expected to confirm his departure from the role of 007 soon meaning that Broccoli has to find a new star and director for the next movie.
Announcing his decision to quit, Mendes old the Hay audience on Saturday: “I’m a storyteller. And at the end of the day, I want to make stories with new characters. It was an incredible adventure. I loved every second of it, but I think it’s time for somebody else [to direct].”
Asked who would take over as Bond, Mendes said: “I can guarantee that whatever happens next it will not be what you expect. The truth is, here’s the headline: It is not a democracy. It is notThe X Factor. It is not the Euro Referendum. It is not a public vote, you know.
“Barbara Broccoli chooses who is going to be the next Bond, end of story. And without that there would have been no Daniel Craig because public support for Daniel was zero.
“It was her saying: ‘That man over there, he’s going to change the whole tenor, I’m going to cast him.’ That turned the whole thing on its head.”
Other potential candidates for the role are said to include Damian Lewis, Idris Elba and Tom Hardy. Among the names said to be in the frame for director are Danny Boyle and Christopher Nolan.
An Eon spokesman had not returned calls at the time of publication.
Sign up to the Radio Times newsletter for the latest TV and entertainment news